I have recently been visited by the ghost of Christmas Past and he showed me a few of my happy memories along with a few of the not so happy ones.
First he showed me a little girl running with her big brother and big sisters out to pile into the car the day after Thanksgiving. They all fought and argued over who would get the front seat and who would be stuck in the back seat. After piling into the blue Chevy sedan the mother waddles up to the car with an axe in hand and she climbs into the front seat, they drive away laughing and joking that the axe would be used on anyone who suggested a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree".
They drove along a country road until they found a small area to pull the car along side some woods and they all jump out and run off into the trees all searching for that perfect tree. There is no greater honor in the family than finding that perfect tree before the others because then it's YOUR tree! I could see the children laughing and running through the forest, yelling out to one another to be sure no one got lost. The little one finally yells out "It's here, hurry everyone come and see! I found the perfect tree!!" Everyone runs to her side and there before her is the most beautiful, full and tall tree you've ever seen! It is indeed the PERFECT tree! Big brother grabs the axe out of mothers hand and begins to chop! The girls all stand back and yell "TIMBER" as the tree falls to the ground, then they all grab a branch and together they drag that perfect tree out of the woods and put it on top of the car! The little one gets the front seat because it was she who found the perfect tree!
Second the ghost showed me that same little girl a couple of years later. She was watching her mother hard at work. Her mother had a square board in front of her that she had painted black and now she was taping off that board to make squares. She painted those squares red, it was obviously a checker board and the little girl hoped that her mother was maybe making it for her. We then flash-forwarded to Christmas morning where the little girl observed the beautiful checkerboard sitting under the tree, red bow attached and a small bag that contained little red and black pieces of wood. The little girl cautiously peeks at the tag, hoping to see her name there....she is saddened by what she reads for two reasons....one, it doesn't have her name on it, two it says "From: Santa" That day she discovered that Santa was not a real elf who came down the chimney and left presents for good boys and girls :(
Finally the ghost showed me a day that I shall never forget...that little girl was more grown up now, she was beginning to understand that Santa was a spirit and that he could live inside people hearts. She was 11 years old, fresh in the foster care system, living in her 4th home in as many months. Apparently it's hard to place 4 children aged 11, 14, 15, and 17 all in the same home and keep them together so they had been moving from temporary foster home to temporary foster home in the hopes of finding a more permanant home for them to stay in. It was Christmas morning when a knock came on the door and Santa Clause stood on the threshold. His sleigh was parked out front and he was holding a huge green bag. The girls foster mother let him in and he walked right up to her, opened his giant sack and proceeded to hand her gifts. One after another he handed her boxes and wrapped packages, some with her name, some with her brothers and sisters names. There were sweaters, toys, stuffed animals and books that she had desired to read. There were notepads with purple pens just like she really wanted but never dreamed she would receive....and there was a checkerboard painted black and red with a red bow and a bag of little black and red pieces of wood! Santa gave her a hug and appologized for not making it to her house previous years and went on his way. It was a magical moment that she would not soon forget, the moment she realized that her foster mother must really care since she had recently told her the story of the checkerboard and how it had broken her heart to realize Santa was not real. Much like the Grinch, she realized that Christmas was so much more and she cried!
May you all be visited by your own ghost of Christmas Past and may he show you the happier memories and why even the sad ones are important!